By LARRY VAUGHT
Rather than show his team video of Tuesday’s second-half collapse at South Carolina, maybe Kentucky coach John Calipari should let his team watch what ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg had to say about the Cats after that loss.
It was brutal, but honest.
“They’re not a good team because they’re not connected,” Greenberg said on ESPN. “We can say that’s because they’re freshmen … that sounds great. But they’re not connected because right now they’re all about themselves instead of the good of the group. I think we need to spend more time talking about the teams that are actually really good.”
Don’t believe them. Then take another glance at what UK freshman Kevin Knox, who led UK with 21 points at South Carolina, said after the game.
“Coach was trying to get us to make winning plays down the stretch. We weren’t just really doing what he was asking for,” Knox said. “We were trying to do our own thing and you could see what happened. They kind of came back and won the game.”
Kind of came back? South Carolina stormed back to dominate the final 11 minutes.
But why wouldn’t players listen to Calipari? That’s what I asked Knox — and to his credit he didn’t dodge the question.
“I mean, like coach Cal told us, you get into the game, we’re up 14, you think the game’s over with, you’re trying to do your own thing, basically. And like Cal says, instead of getting it to 20 and taking the win and going home, next thing you know we tried to do our own thing, they get back into it, not listening, people trying to get their own baskets. So we just gotta stick together as a team and just listen to Coach and we’ll be fine,” Knox said.
That sounds bizarre. Why not listen to the coach? How hard is that?
Check how Greenberg explained it on ESPN.
“These guys have been recruited since they were 13 years old. They’ve been enabled since they were 13 years old. They don’t think. It’s not about Kentucky, it’s about how quick can I get to the league?” Greenberg, a college head coach from 1990-2012, said. “It’s all about me, me, me. They don’t know how to play hard. They’re not competitive. They can’t maintain an intensity.”
Give Greenberg credit for directing some criticism at his own network for spending too much time focusing on super freshmen and not the best teams that have older, more experienced players.
“Why don’t we spend some time talking about the Villanovas, that are connected; the Purdues; what Virginia’s doing? These guys (freshmen) are spoiled by the process by the time they’re 13 years old. And they’re clueless on understanding how hard you have to play, what type of teammate you need to be,” Greenberg said.
Knox seemed to grasp that UK has to start understanding what it takes to be a connected team and start doing it now that it is 4-2 in SEC play and likely to drop out of the top 25 next week.
“We just got a lot of work to do in practice. We’re freshmen, like I said. It’s a learning experience. We’ll bounce back. This is a good game for us. Good, physical team. We’re going to see a lot more down the road,” Knox said.
Say amen John Calipari.
“We’re not there yet. We got, hopefully, I hate to say it, you gotta take some losses to get guys to start listening,” Calipari said Tuesday night. “What also ends up happening in a game like this, individual players really look like they’re not very good players.
“When you start realizing it, ‘Yeah, we’re not very good, but you’re not very good. You’re hurting yourself. Let’s get this right.’ So, hopefully we’ll move on from here and get this one right.”
Kentucky gets its next chance Saturday night when it hosts SEC leader Florida (5-1). ESPN GameDay will be in Lexington for the game.